For many of us, cold showers are an unpleasant mishap on a routine day. When you hear a shout of “THERE’S NO HOT WATER!" coming from the bathroom, it usually isn't a good thing. But it may be time to rethink that knee-jerk reaction. If you are wondering if cold showers are good for you, read on. It turns out that cold showers offer a wealth of health benefits: they boost your immune system, improve circulation, lift your mood, ease muscle tension, and give you a big boost of energy!
If you’re intrigued by the idea of cold showers for the many health benefits they offer, keep reading. Adding a brief ice-cold shower into your daily routine may be one of the ways to stay strong during good times and bad.
Cold Showers Are Nothing New
Ever since bathing became a part of civilization, people have experimented with varying water temperatures. In ancient Rome, bathhouses involved moving through a series of saunas with a cold plunge at the end. Many of the world’s health spas still use this ancient ritual, called frigidarium.
There’s growing interest in using cold hydrotherapy for health benefits. Wim Hof, nicknamed the Iceman, teaches a method of withstanding cold temperatures using a combination of controlled breathing, meditation, and dedication — I’m a big fan of this technique.
Strengthen your ability to withstand the cold, and let the health benefits begin!
A Downpour of Benefits From Cold Showers
Cold showering doesn’t mean a 10-minute ice-cold shower while you shave, wash your hair, and sing a few of your favorite songs. There are many reported benefits from even short bursts of cold water integrated into a comfortable water temperature. Below are the top benefits!
Strengthens Immunity & Circulation
The benefits of cold showering or bathing work like a domino effect. Cold showers speed up your metabolic rate, which helps you burn fat. When your metabolism speeds up, it also signals your immune system to release antiviral white blood cells.
This boost to the immune system can reduce your sick days as well. People who take a hot shower, with 30 to 90-second bursts of cold water, have 29 percent fewer sick days than those who took only warm showers!
Cold showers also increase your blood circulation, which can promote normal blood pressure. What's not to love?
Lifts Mood & Eases Depression
Cold showering once or twice a day for 5 minutes may lift mood and even relieve depression. There’s a high density of cold receptors in the skin. That blast of cold water stimulates your central nervous system. Cold exposure sends a multitude of electrical impulses from the nerve endings to the brain, which can lead to an antidepressant effect.
That blast of cold also helps the brain produce more beta-endorphins, which produce feelings of well-being and happiness. If you are feeling down, it certainly can’t hurt to try a cold shower! If you have consistent feelings of depression, please reach out to a healthcare provider or a trusted friend or family member.
Eases Muscle Tension
Adding ice-cold water into your daily routine of a warm water shower can also ease muscle pain. Applying anything cold on your skin can decrease discomfort from swelling and inflammation. It may also calm muscle spasms. That icy blast may increase local anesthetic effects, which means relief from pain due to workouts or injuries.
Although an icy shower isn’t as effective as a full-body ice bath, it will still improve circulation and help remove lactic acid from tired muscles. Alternating very hot and very cold water gets the blood flowing.
Many people who take cold showers report feeling increased alertness that lasts throughout the day. Having enough energy is consistently one of people’s top concerns. If you don’t feel you have enough for your day, you may try a cold shower. It may boost your metabolism, helping you burn calories and stimulating weight loss in the process.
Cold showering or cold bathing may not only help healthy individuals get more energy, but also those with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Instead of reaching for another jolt of caffeine, a brief cold shower may do the trick for those seeking an energy boost. Disciples of the cold shower technique report a feeling of "alertness" afterward.
Improves Hair & Skin Health
Remember that scene in the film, "Mommy Dearest." when Joan Crawford plunges her famous face into a bowl of ice water? Joan was onto something good by using that habit in her beauty routine. A cold water splash on our faces helps constrict blood vessels, making us appear less red and puffy.
Ice cold water has benefits for your locks, as well. Cold water helps hair follicles lie flat while sealing the strand’s cuticles; this increases shine and overall hair health. Shampooing and rinsing with warm water is still important to remove the dirt, but that final cold water rinse can make a big impact.
How to Get Started!
Eager to give cold showers a try? That's great! Take note that people with weakened immune systems or serious heart conditions should check with their healthcare provider first. Sudden changes to body temperature and heart rate may cause an adverse reaction.
The good news is that you can reap cold shower benefits without having to endure ice-cold water the entire time you’re under the sprayer.
Start by taking a warm shower and then adjust the water to cold (about 68 degrees F) for anywhere between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. If you can handle it, an all-cold shower up to five minutes may supply even greater benefits of cold water therapy.
DJ Dykes, a YouTube marketer in Houston, gave a 30-day regimen a try, gradually increasing the duration of cold bursts in his warm shower.
- First Week: 1.5 minutes
- Second Week: 2 minutes
- Third Week: 3 minutes
- Fourth Week: 5 minutes
He admitted that the first ten seconds were rough. To get through it, Dykes says, focus on slowing down your breathing. "Remind yourself why you’re doing this," Dykes advises.
He liked how that ice-cold experience first thing in the morning reframes your view of the day. Everything becomes easier, no matter what is on the agenda for the day.
"Especially when in stressful situations, I recommend looking at all of the ways that you can boost your immune system naturally. A cold shower is one of those ways — and you don't even have to leave the house."
For anyone expecting a magical experience from the beginning, DJ suggests otherwise. The first ten seconds are almost always rough, but then your body adjusts. "After a couple of weeks, they become only a minor inconvenience that doesn't even bother you because your mood is elevated, and you feel absolutely great!"
What About an Ice Bath or Cold Water Swimming?
Athletes and even rock stars have been photographed taking cold baths to reduce swelling and prevent muscle break down. Cold baths have the same benefits as cold showering and maybe even more since your entire body can submerge into the water.
Swimming or soaking in a cold pool is optimal, but you can feel invigorated just going in for a brief soak. That is after you get over the initial shock of the water! Many people come to love it.
Other Ways to Boost the Immune System
In addition to cold showers or cold bathing — or even a cold splash of water on your face in the morning — many other factors affect the strength and resilience of your immune system. The following are some of the best!
- Try to avoid prolonged periods of emotional stress. Stress hormones can suppress the immune system. Try incorporating meditation and other relaxation methods to deal with difficult times.
- Eat a plant-based diet low in processed foods and added sugar. Probiotic foods stimulate the digestion of nutrients that boost the immune system.
- For nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you do not get enough of, take high-quality organic supplements, especially immune-system boosting formulas.
- Try an occasional fast. Fasts and calorie reduction have incredible benefits!
- Get plenty of exercise to fend off illness. Exercise lowers blood pressure and improves our cardiovascular health. Simple hikes and walks do great things for the mind and body!
- Aside from being one of life’s greatest pleasures, getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep reduces your chance of getting sick.
Points to Remember
Whether you want more energy or you want to boost your immunity, consider giving cold showers or cold baths a try. Rather than an unpleasant surprise to start your day, cold showers can have a very positive effect on your health and immune system.
You can begin gradually. Just add short cold water bursts to your daily shower. Then add more time the next day, and more as time goes on.
Health benefits include easing depression and making you feel energized and alert. You may speed up your metabolism and burn fat. Cold showers help immunity — they may even reduce number of sick days you’ll take off from work.
For similar immune-boosting benefits, minimize stress, get some exercise, eat a plant-based diet, and get a good night’s sleep.
While cold water has been used since ancient times, curiosity about cold showering has been increasing recently. Check with your healthcare provider if you have any serious condition, like high blood pressure or heart problems, before giving any cold water regimen a try.
- Buijze GA, et al. The effect of cold showering on health and work: a randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 2016;11(9):e0161749.
- Shevchuk NA. Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(5):995-1001. Epub 2007 Nov 13.
- Mooventhan A, Nivethitha L. Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body.
- Salleh MR. Life event, stress and illness. Malays J Med Sci. 2008 Oct;15(4):9-18.
- Yan F, Polk DB. Probiotics and immune health. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2011 Oct;27(6):496-501.
- Besedovsky L, et al. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch. 2012 Jan;463(1):121-137.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.